Since Tampa is my hometown, I’m guilty of frequently doing nothing besides hanging out with family and friends on a visit to the sunny Florida city. But sometimes it’s fun to play tourist in a city that I know so well. I have a long list of places that have opened since I last lived there 10 years ago and am slowly trying to get through each item. Recently, we visited Tampa for a wedding and stayed in the Le Meridien hotel downtown so were able to check a few things off of our Tampa bucket list over the weekend. Below you’ll find a few recommendations from that trip! (Cover photo via Wikipedia Commons)
We stayed at the Le Meridien which is centrally located in downtown Tampa. I loved the interior design of this hotel. It is located in a former courthouse (which prior to that was a post office and customs house) and has modern decor and furniture. Much of the decor has been repurposed from its previous use in the courthouse. You can read more about the unique details of the hotel here. The hotel has a great pool that feels like a tropical oasis in the middle of the city. Its restaurant, the Bizou Brasserie, makes great cocktails (and mocktails!). The hotel is also within walking distance to several great restaurants downtown.
The guest rooms are very relaxing with comfortable beds, blackout curtains, great showers, mini-fridges, and espresso machines. My only complaint about the hotel would be that our room had a strong smell of rubber, like car tires, every time we walked in. However, it was a great place to stay overall and I would recommend it if you want home base to be downtown Tampa!
We ate at a few popular local restaurants during the weekend. One I had been to many times before, but two were new to me but came highly recommended from friends over the years.
The historic Columbia restaurant has been a Tampa staple for over 110 years. It is one of my personal favorite restaurants in Tampa. Growing up, I attended field trips and had dinners there on special occasions. The various rooms in the interior of the restaurant are stunning and the food is consistently delicious. Flamenco dancers perform Monday through Saturday evenings. When you visit the restaurant, make sure to take time to walk around and admire the historic interior. The Columbia Restaurant has several locations, but the Ybor City location is the original. What to order: Standout items from the menu include the 1905 salad, chicken and rice, paella, plantains, and roast pork. Don’t miss the flan for dessert!
Another beloved Tampa establishment is the Taco Bus. Founded about 10 years ago, Taco Bus offers authentic Mexican fare like tacos, quesadillas, and burritos. The restaurant has been featured on the Food Network, Travel Channel, and Cooking Channel. There are several locations in Tampa, but we visited The Taco Bus downtown as it was only a few blocks from our hotel. The downtown location could probably use a bit of interior renovation as it feels kind of old. However, the tacos were delicious and the service was very fast. The highlight of the meal was actually the chips and salsa, which is made fresh daily!
Finally, we visited Datz for Sunday brunch. I’ve been hearing about Datz for years and we finally had the chance to visit. It was even better than expected! The restaurant opened in 2009, but has experienced a few rebirths. Currently, it serves “comfort food with flair” and several of the recipes are made with homemade bread. The restaurant has won several awards and has been featured on Good Morning America, Travel Channel, Food Network, and Cooking Channel. The wait was an hour and a half on a Sunday at noon, but we were able to find seats much more quickly at the upstairs bar. Service was amazingly quick considering how packed the restaurant was. ProTip: You can text ahead to be put on the waitlist so you don’t have to wait at the restaurant. What to order: Begin with the monkey bread. Try the jalapeno chedda’ sandwich egg sandwich and waffles n’ tweet for your mains. On the way out, pick up some desserts to go at Dough next door.
Other fun things to do
The bride and groom were kind enough to hire Tampa’s Brew Bus to take us to the wedding and I haven’t stopped raving about the experience. The company provides public and private bus tours. Public tours are available to various breweries, the beach, or even to special events. Private tours can be booked on several different sized buses and to your location(s) of choice. Tours include pints of the Brew Bus Brewery craft beer (from a selection of four craft beers from the Brew Bus Brewery). Our Brew Bus guide/rep was funny and engaging and the beers were excellent. You can also visit the tap-room in the Seminole Heights neighborhood for beer and food. I highly recommend planning a Brew Bus activity when you’re next visiting Tampa!
Thanks for reading! See you next time!
Le Meridien, 601 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33602
Columbia Restaurant, 2117 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605 and various locations
Taco Bus, 505 N Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602 and various locations
Datz, 2616 S MacDill Ave, Tampa, FL 33629
Brew Bus Terminal & Brewery, 4101 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604, call 877-552-0381 for tour information